Bogong moths, which were so plentiful 20 years ago that hundreds of thousands of them disrupted the Sydney Olympics when they were attracted to stadium floodlights, have been added to an international red list of threatened and endangered species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List – the world’s most comprehensive source of information on the extinction risk status of plants and animals – added a number of Australian species to the list overnight, including the Bogong moth, the Grey-headed flying fox and the Arcadia velvet gecko.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s nature campaigner, Jess Abrahams, said the collapse of Bogong moth numbers was affecting other species that rely of the moths for food.

“Every Spring, mountain pygmy possums in the Australian Alps wake up from their hibernation and build up strength for breeding by feasting on the billions of Bogong moths that have migrated from the lowlands to the mountains,” Mr Abrahams said.

“But in recent years the critically endangered pygmy possums have gone hungry because hardly any Bogong moths have turned up in the mountains, forcing researchers to supplement their diet with artificial ‘bogong-bikkies’.

“The reason for the moth’s sudden decline is not entirely clear, but scientists believe a mix of extreme droughts, pesticides and changes in agricultural practices may be responsible.

“The Bogong moth’s population crash – and its cascading impact on other species – should concern every Australian, as we all depend on the interconnected web of nature, which gives us drinkable water, pollinated crops and clean air.

“Australia has a terrible record on species extinctions. ACF urges the federal government to increase funding to tackle the extinction crisis and introduce strong legally binding standards to the national environment law, as proposed by Professor Graeme Samuel.

“Let’s not let the Bogong moth and the Mountain pygmy possum join the growing list of extinctions,” he said. 

Bogong moths used to be in such abundance that First Nations people gathered from all over the region to feast on them.

The five-yearly State of the Environment report is due to be released by the federal government soon and is expected to reveal even further declines in the health of plants, animals and ecosystems across Australia. 

Read more about The flight of the Bogong moth... and the possum who waits

Header pic: Alamy

Josh Meadows

Media Adviser at the Australian Conservation Foundation